Album Reviews

Brown Recluse – Evening Tapestry

on February 16, 2011, 7:59am
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Timothy Meskers and Mark Saddlemire, the two-man core of Philadelphia’s Brown Recluse, have a pretty clear love of the psychedelic pop of the past, whether it’s the lush harmonies of the Zombies or the swirling horn sections of Sgt. Pepper’s-era Beatles. Over the course of releasing two solid EPs and touring behind the likes of Pains of Being Pure at Heart, that core added four musicians and consequently developed a more florid, emotional sound. That all culminates on their debut long-player, Evening Tapestry, which has its delights but largely depends too much on touchstones to stay fresh.

Despite the creepy-crawly, arachnid band name and the dark, enveloping album title, the album relies more heavily on sunshine and melody. The twinkling organ and trumpet blares on opener “Hobble to Your Tomb” are a foggy sort of happiness, as much vaguely Shins-y as it is retro psych. The constant harmonies, skipping rhythm, and heavy strumming of “Impressions of a City Morning” compose a bright burst of pop goodness but nothing that sticks around in the memory very long, while the waltzy goodness of the plinking piano on “Statue Garden” fades under the weight of the cutesy lyrical narrative.

This sort of overbearing quality is more frequent than it needs to be. Brown Recluse’s musical ability to evoke that bright, psychedelic lightness is more than enough, without the lyrics. The twirling organ washes, lithe bass, and bongo slaps of “Summer Showers” would be just as affective without lyrics about “water trickling down the grass” or waiting out the storm before leaving. This song doesn’t falter under their weight, but it certainly isn’t necessary either.

But at their heart, these are vocal-and-lyric-driven songs, no matter however spot-on their musical tropes are. The spacey ’60s pop psychedelia of “Wooden Fingers” is so perfect that a line like “Symbols speak to me in a language of full-on certainty” is just too much to not remember. The layers of trumpet and flute that fade the song out are just so bright; the base is set; the filigrees and flourishes so right. Even the synth-drum kickstart of “Monday Moon” fits into place, but an opening line about going out for a walk to clear the cobwebs is just too expected to have much weight. But that’s pop music, to a degree, and Brown Recluse does pop music very precisely.

The cheery, surfy guitar of “At Last” furthers that precision, as well as the almost Jens Lekman style, horn-heavy indie pop. The album is a perfect disc to put on for a long walk on a sunny day or as background music for a picnic (which is almost surreal to think about with snow covering so much ground). The instrumental quality on Evening Tapestry is beyond solid, but altogether, it’s a recognizably decent piece of retro psychedelic pop.

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